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Breaking News: City Council to Fire City Manager?

The Santa Clara City Council has called a special meeting for 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24 for “Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release.” As there are only two employees reporting to the City Council, and one of those positions — City Attorney — is vacant, the process of elimination leaves the City Manager Deanna Santana. 

Since she was hired in 2017, Santana has attracted criticism over her now $785,000 compensation package — the highest for any city manager in California. The temperature increased when she threatened to take the City to court if the Council denied her a raise. She called it “a new low” from the Council and said she was entitled to the raise because her raises are tied to bargaining Unit 9. 

Santana has left previous jobs under a cloud. 

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In Oakland, she tried to alter and suppress parts of an independent police auditor’s report after Oakland’s disastrous attempt to clear an Occupy Oakland camp. Santana was also at the center of a 2015 whistleblower lawsuit that cost Oakland $613,000. 

She was also the focus of labor contention in Oakland; accused of blocking police reform efforts; and actively involved herself in city council redistricting, going so far as to hire a consultant for the effort without informing council members.* 

During her tenure as City Manager in Sunnyvale, the city came the closest it ever had to a public employee strike, and several Sunnyvale employees have told The Weekly that Santana played a central role. About six months later, she left Sunnyvale for Santa Clara, taking much of Sunnyvale’s executive staff with her — all of whom got hefty raises to commute a few miles across the city border. 

Along the way, Santana has been dogged by suspicions of cronyism. She hired three consultants with questionable records that she worked with in previous jobs. 

The first was a former San José colleague, Mark Danaj, who, after being let go by Manhattan Beach found a temporary berth in Santa Clara just in time to avoid losing his CalPERS classic pension. 

Another was Dan Fenton, who was singled out in two grand jury reports about San José’s destination management agency for malfeasance and losing millions. Fenton’s company was hired to analyze and restructure Santa Clara’s Destination Management Organization (DMO). They ultimately delivered on the contract, but only after appearing to have been paid for the same work several times. 

Subsequently, the DMO manager recommended by Fenton was investigated by Santa Clara police, according to police records. He wasn’t charged with anything but soon left town

Denise Callahan was another consultant with a prior connection to the City Manager. She worked with Santana in San José after a critical review by an independent review board alleged that the police department mishandled complaints. Callahan arrived at more police department-friendly findings by narrowing definitions. 

Santana hired Callahan to audit the Santa Clara Convention Center. Among Callahan’s allegations was that the Convention Center was losing revenue because of improper discounts. The Weekly requested specific examples of these improper discounts, but Callahan never produced any.

Santana also hired Alameda County Coliseum Authority Director Scott McKibben as Levi’s Stadium Executive Director. McKibben quit before he started — and before he was indicted for attempted graft and (last year) took a plea bargain. 

*Santana was highly critical of the East Bay Express’ reporting of this, writing a long letter to the editor about her “deep concern about the biased, inaccurate, and misleading reporting;” prompting a reply from the journalist that her job was “to serve the public” and his was “documenting your record in that regard.” 

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25 Comments
  1. Ima Scresident 9 months ago
    Reply

    Sure seems to me that there is a witch hunt for Deanna Santana. I cant fault a single decision she has made -they are logical and she protects City interests. Who is driving the desire to fire the City Attorney and the City Manager? Follow the money! it all points back to Jed York….

    • CSC 9 months ago
      Reply

      Attn Ima Scresident: 1) Jed York had nothing to do with a judge ordering district voting in the City of Santa Clara. 2) The York Foundation had nothing to do with Santa Clara PD having the highest number (per-officer capita) of officer involved shootings, in Santa Clara Councy, of mentally ill people. 3) The 49ers have nothing to do with the City Manager’s office ignoring access to documents in the City of Santa Clara’s possession. But, to the benefit of all residents and visitors, the York Foundation has provided finanial resources for Santa Clarans to finally enjoy the same civil rights other communities enjoy. You should thank them for that.

    • Giovanni tovatino 9 months ago
      Reply

      I guess you’ll have to be on her pay roll too. That’s ok a audit of fact finding is in progress and we will know who is who and as residents we will have our town back.

  2. M.A. Lennon 9 months ago
    Reply

    It’s about time. She’s been instulting the council that hired her for years. Seems to me if they can hire her, they can fire her. She’s been a bully and lined her office with high salaried assistants.

  3. CSC 9 months ago
    Reply

    Santana has been slipping and sliding through the slop trough for many years. Prior to the CVRA lawsuit, the Santa Clara City Council was chock full of old guard residents from the same, central city, blocks that protected the all-white city leadership. It took a lawssuit supported by residents and city businesses to provide the community with the same civil rights benefits surrounding cities enjoy. The city’s police department had the highest percentage of criminal cops compared to every other police entity in the entire Bay Area and the highest amount of officer involved shootings per-officer capita. The open records act to ensure transparency was smuggly ignored by both Santana and the previous city council who hired her. Official complaints by women, who claimed an officer falsely reported a story that he rescued one of them, went ignored despite Santana and the police department having evidence to substantiate those claims in their hands. There is no explanation, other than graft, for employee salaries being so much higher than similar roles in neighboring cities. All these events are despicable and Santana has been at the direct center of it. How much longer should residents and businesses have to endure a city manager with such a horrible track record? Santana claims her current compensation reflects that of others in the private sector with similar education work experience. However, Santana doesn’t want to abide by the same accountability other executives have to accept from shareholders. Fire Santana, residents and businesses in the City of Santa Clara deserve much better than her and her self-serving cronies.

    • jojo 9 months ago
      Reply

      regarding the private sector: one knows (or should know, especially she with her years of employment and experience) that the private sector often pays more than the public/non-profit sector. if she wanted to be compensated at a level comparable to the private sector, she should have sought employment in the private sector. so her argument/tantrum over that point is moot imho.

      • CSC 9 months ago
        Reply

        You’re exactly right, Jojo. The general private sector employee is limited to only investing $20,500 annually ($27k age 50+), pre-tax, to their 401k but public sector pension contributions can be much higher. In 2019 the Mercury News interviewed Transparent California and a number of Bay Area municipalities finding healthcare benefit costs acquired through CalPERS are at least double the cost of health plans found in the private sector, on average CalPERS plans cost $21k per employee. So, if we subtract $21k from the average annual $114,382 “total benefits” the City of Santa Clara is providing each peace officer and the same amount from an annual average $97,252 for each firefighter, those employees are receiving an average of $93k and $76k, respectively, contributed pre-tax to their retirement funds. In Santana’s case it’s much worse as her 2020 “total benefits” amount is $243,625. In their early fifties, city employees are retiring as multi-millionaires.

        • CSC 9 months ago
          Reply

          Sorry, should’ve cited sources in previous post…
          • https://www.scfhp.com/employment/employment-benefits/
          • https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/09/11/california-cities-special-districts-pay-much-more-than-market-rate-for-healthcare-study-finds/

  4. MWills 9 months ago
    Reply

    Fact is the council is cleaning up the mess Mayor Gillmor has created, including hiring this dishonest, disruptive, and overpaid city manager. Gillmor does not believe in democracy, disrespecting council majority at every turn. Santa Clara is not a dictatorship. Please vote her out of office in November.

    • Ima Notblind 9 months ago
      Reply

      Are you blind? This Council is the biggest joke ever. Becker, Park, Jain, and Hardy are making a mockery of this fine City. (i’m not a fan of Wattanabe either for that matter) They are all idiots. You can’t fix stupid and these bumbling fools take the cake. Becker apologizing for what again? Park rambling about who knows what -he surely does’t, Jain and his lies and special interests, and Hardy who is just a puppet and can’t put a coherent sentence together…

      Santa Clara residents: don’t be afraid to speak up. We are the majority. We need a recall before any more damage is done!

      PS: Ms. CSC, MWills and Tovatino are clueless as well. DooDoo has a point but too aligned with York and Trump. oh there’s a not so secret, secret. Jed York and Trump are twinsies and good friends. Saying the York family trust is benefitting residents and visitors of Santa Clara is like saying Trump really cares about Americans. It ain’t so!! Don’t be blind Santa Clara!

      • Davy L 9 months ago
        Reply

        Hi. Got news for you. You’re not seeing very well. Becker, Park, Jain, Hardy were elected by large majorities, to undo the damages to our city caused by Gilmore, Santana, and Doyle. They’re simply performing what they were elected to do.

        • MJ 9 months ago
          Reply

          Always interesting when people claim they are the majority. Based on what? And in this case, as Davy L points out, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary from the last election.

        • Rotondo 9 months ago
          Reply

          Hmm… how many elections did they win without Jed’s 2.9 million? NONE.

          • Davy L 9 months ago

            Hi. Sorry, but NONE is not correct. Hardy won her seat two years before Jed began contributing any funds to our city elections. She never received any of Jed’s 2.9 million. In the meantime, the Police PAC has been contributing all these many past years to Gillmore and Wattanabe.

  5. DooDoo 9 months ago
    Reply

    keep Santa Clara great again!

  6. Informed SC Resident who remembers 9 months ago
    Reply

    It’s about time the Council gets rid of the overpaid City Manager … and the voters needs to dust out the cobwebs and remember exactly who brought the red n gold plaque to Santa Clara too. The ones in RednGold. Stripes are exactly the same people who are now attempting to rewrite history and put blinders on the Santa Clara voters and citizens – Lisa GetMore Gillmor, Kathy Wantobe Wannabe, Burt Fields of Dreams, and more … how interesting that those pointing fingers and calling others names ARE actually the ones who were the Niners biggest cheerleaders and DID get the Yorks’ money.. And Robert is still on Lisa’s payroll too.

    What has Santana actually done for Santa Clara? She’s done a lot TO the city, but what has she done FOR it – other than taken lots of it’s money, brought in lots of her cronies (without advertising positions or interviewing candidates), blocked public records requests, ignored Santa Clara’s City Charter so more cronies could infest Santa Clara (in cahoots with the exited City Attorney), created a hostile work environment — and that’s just the short list.

    She needs to go immediately and should have been released years ago when her escapades started right after she got her bathroom key. She’s paid too much — done too little — and hurt the City of Santa Clara very deeply.

    Good bye Felicia … good riddance to bad rubbish

  7. Pj Lcas 9 months ago
    Reply

    Fire her. The salary alone is reason enough. Absurdly ridiculous, wildly out of line compesation.

  8. Wesley 9 months ago
    Reply

    Who is behind City Manager, Deanna Santana? Of course it is Lisa Gilmor. Deanna does what Lisa tells her to do. She told Deanna to block district voting and paid her tremendous sums/salary to do her bidding and she still bows at Lisa’s feet. This is not a dictatorship thanks to Becker, Jain, Hardy, Park and Chahal. They will not let Santana and Gilmor do anything they want with their corrupt practices. They are checks and balances. Balance of power.

    • rotondo 9 months ago
      Reply

      What a shame to our American constitution that you think that York’s loser puppets are checks and balances. We need checks and balances AGAINST them! Santana and Doyle were that, and that’s why they got rid of them.

      • Davy L 9 months ago
        Reply

        Hi. I strongly suggest for you to reread the above news column again. It clearly states the reasons why Santana needs to be fired. The 49ers were not involved in any way.

  9. L Mongan 9 months ago
    Reply

    About time! Hopefully we will get rid of the council/mayor that supported her. Let’s get back to Santa Clara being a great city to live in.

  10. L Mongan 9 months ago
    Reply

    About time! Hopefully we will get rid of the council/mayor that supported her. Let’s get back to Santa Clara being a great city to live in.

    • Rotondo 9 months ago
      Reply

      That will never happen with Jed York’s loser puppets sitting in council.

  11. Rotondo 9 months ago
    Reply

    Instead of being Jed York’s loser puppets, the spineless council needs to get Santa Clara a downtown and a nice ECR. Take a drive down ECR and you realize how ugly it is.

    • Davy L 9 months ago
      Reply

      Hi. And I suggest you stop behaving like one of Lisa Gillmore’s spineless, loser puppets.

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